It’s a year of reinvention for General Motors’ full-size sport-utility vehicles.
For 2021, GM creates a new architecture for its big SUVs. It has an independent rear suspension — like those found on cars and crossovers — and a longer wheelbase.
We tested a 2021 Tahoe, whose footprint grows by 7 inches this year.
The net effect is a roomier rig with a smoother ride and better handling.
Other fifth-generation updates include a new V-8 engine option and a high-end trim that incorporates the new powerplant and a newly available air suspension.
The 2021 Tahoe is available in six trims: LS ($49,000); LT ($53,800); RST ($57,100); Z71 ($59,200); Premier ($62,600) and High Country ($69,600).
All trims include LED headlights, eight-passenger seating (an available front bench boosts that to nine), a 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and emergency braking.
Advanced safety and driver-assist features are available on various trims. Buyers must step up to higher trims for access to such features and adaptive cruise control.
We tested a Tahoe High Country, a leather and wood-trimmed near-luxe offering that includes nearly every available feature, either as standard or optional.
Overall cargo capacity grows 30 percent. Cargo space behind the third-row seats jumps a massive 66 percent.
In all trims, third-row legroom grows 10 inches and new folding seat mechanisms make it easier to get back there.
Tahoe’s second-row seat now slides fore and aft by more than 5 inches.
The second- and third-row seats fold more easily, and the load floor is both flatter and lower, easing the task of loading and unloading.
The large front seats promise comfort over the long haul. There are abundant casual storage opportunities and the large center console armrest/bin is set up to do duty as a work space.
A new 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is located high in the dash, with HVAC and audio controls laid out below it. Infotainment menus are logical and intuitive. Ham-fisted drivers will appreciate the large, colorful and well-labeled touchscreen icons. Many functions can be managed via redundant steering wheel and dash-mounted controls.
A new dash-mounted electronic gear shifter is less cooperative. It comprises a stack of vertically aligned buttons, some of which are pushed and some pulled. It’s nearly impossible to use without giving it one’s total attention.
Usability takes another hit with the single, overloaded control stalk. Hidden behind the steering wheel, it combines high-beam, turn-signal and front and rear wiper controls. Like the shift mechanism, it resists easy mastery.
Two new engines
Two new engines join the Tahoe lineup this year. The base engine is 5.3-liter V-8 that produces 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque.
It’s joined by a new, 6.2-liter V-8 (420 hp/460 lb.-ft.), which is offered exclusively on the High Country trim. A new six-cylinder Duramax turbo-diesel (277 hp/460 lb-ft), can be had on all trims but the off-road-oriented Z71.
At 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway), the diesel is the family mileage champ.
After hauling people and goods, Tahoe’s highest purpose is towing. A properly equipped RWD Tahoe can tow up to 8,400 lb; AWD models can tow up to 8,200 lb.
An available Max Trailering package includes a high-capacity radiator and cooling fan, an integrated trailer brake controller, a Hitch Guidance with Hitch View feature and the Chevrolet trailering app. Up to nine camera views help drivers put the trailer where they want it.
The new multilink rear suspension allows GM to implement advanced suspension functions.
GM’s Magnetic Ride Control — it provides real-time shock damping — is standard on Premier and High Country trims and optional on the Z71.
The High Country and Z71 can be had with the Air Ride Adaptive Suspension, which offers load leveling at all four corners of the vehicle, and up to 4 inches of ride-height adjustment.
The lightly weighted steering system is numb and non-communicative. Body lean is well-controlled but undulating roads taken at speed caused a modest bobbing motion.
Otherwise, the Tahoe is quiet, stable and steady on the open road.
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2021 Chevrolet Tahoe High Country 4WD
Vehicle base price: $49,000
Trim level base price: $69,900
As tested: $81,345 (includes destination and handling)
Options: panoramic sunroof; Air Ride adaptive suspension; power-retractable assist steps; lane-change alert with blind-spot warning; adaptive cruise control; enhanced emergency braking; enhanced cooling radiator; trailer blind-side zone alert; trailer brake controller; advanced trailering system; hitch-guidance with hitch-view; rear-seat media system; Color-Touch LCD HD screens; power-sliding floor console
Tow rating: 8,200 pounds
EPA rating: 16 combined/14 city/19 highway
Regular gasoline specified